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Public eye: Jason Akoi, 25

New York street interviews: Stories from the sidewalk as told by real New Yorkers about their lives in the city that never sleeps.

Photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein
Jason Akoi, 25

Union Square

What are you up to? I’m just chilling, no plans. I just walked down here after work.

Where’s work? Urban Outfitters. I’m a visual merchandiser there.

So you dress mannequins? Yeah, I style mannequins and put items in the best position to get sold.

I guess you know how to manipulate me into buying things. [Laughs] I don’t want to use the word manipulate, but I could probably persuade you to buy something. I’m also the founder and creative director of a leather-accessories company called Herds of the Fathers. We make men’s bags.

Where do you get your fashion sense? I’m just a regular guy. I can recognize a nice item, but it’s not like I live and breathe fashion. I mostly just like to watch football and drink beer with my buddies.

But you also make satchels. I do. I started in college. My friend was looking for a leather bag in his price range and he couldn’t find anything. We were just lying around playing video games. He was like, “Man, we should start something,” and I was like, “What do you want to start?” and he was like, “Accessories for men,” and I was like, “Aight, cool.” That was the whole conversation. [Laughs]

It was between that and video games? Yeah, exactly. We took the money we were supposed to use for our dorm and used it as capital. I was sleeping on friends’ couches, texting friends being like, “Hey, are you using your bed tonight?” [Laughs] Within six months we had our first samples.

How do you feel about dead cows? Uh, you know, I like to think of it as roadkill that was already dead.

Wait, these are roadkill purses? Nah, just joking.

That could work—roadkill could be the new reclaimed wood. [Laughs] It really could be, but nah, we don’t do that. I dunno, I mean, I eat meat, you know? I feel okay about it.

What do your regular-dude friends say about man purses? Yeah, they make fun of me all the time. But I don’t make man purses, by the way. I make backpacks and duffel bags and briefcases. I don’t know about murses—there are things going on in fashion right now that are just not for me. I’m not one of these guys who wants to be all exclusive. I don’t need to be a gazillionaire.

More from Jason

“Imagine telling your father you want to sell bags for a living.”